Next up – Nick Barnard

Nick Barnard (of Rude Health) and I sat down for a conversation over skype about the nutritional challenges to agriculture now.  We discussed his book Eat Right, the seemingly inevitable tendency of human beings to enjoy convenience, the relationship between culture and soil and what books farmers should be reading!

Some of my favourite bits:

Hand Food and Mouth Food

‘Korean tradition distinguishes two kinds of food: hand food (which has been prepared, handled from production all the way through to eating) and mouth food (which is only tasted).  The proportion of hand food to mouth food should be about 80% to 20%.’

This got me thinking again about Michael Pollan’s Food Rules (I think that’s the right source) in which he says that in general, beyond the approach of ‘Eat food. Mostly Plants. Not too much.’  he actually at a certain point says, you can eat almost anything as long as you make it yourself from scratch…

Which is pretty much my philosophy when it comes to food.  I like hand food.  I like to be able to make my own croissants, mozzarella, pies, pizza and pasta.  Yesterday I made meringues for my daughter to take in as a treat (late birthday celebration) for school.  The same (picky!) daughter refuses pizza made anywhere else other than in my kitchen, by me.  And the sourdough bread baked last night?  According to my son ‘Its Epic!’ (he’s nine…  and I have hope that he will learn to love Shakespearean English as much as the surfer dude version he seems to bring home from his classmates at school, just maybe not yet.)

We probably eat slightly too much sugar (horrible sweet tooths in this house) but at least most of it is within a home made context.  Does that make it better?  Or simply ease my conscience?

Be curious about your food

Don’t just go with the headline ‘All natural’ or even ‘organic’ doesn’t mean its good for you.  If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, think twice!

I like knowing where my food comes from.  I don’t always, I’m not a locavore really, though sometimes I would like to be, the thought of never eating an avocado or mango again disturbs me deeply.  But we are really lucky, we get vegetables and meat from the farm I can see from my window, and sometimes I get around to patronising our brilliant local farmer’s market.  This is the season of apples and blackberries so we forage and collect in autumn, a luxury I know not everyone can access.

Long supply chains and undervaluing of farmers depresses me and then makes me angry.

I’m not perfect by any means!  I still haven’t managed to sign up for our local raw milk dairy, but it is on the to do list…

But I am always curious about food.  How is it made?  Where does it come from?  What are the ingredients and processes behind the food on the table?  Are they transparent, or hidden?  So much curiosity! So many labels and books to read…

We are part of nature and nature is part of us.  Our relationship (or absence of relationship) with food is inherently part of our relationship with nature.  Perhaps this is one that needs cultivation!

Farmers should read books

According to Nick, Joel Salatin, that famous American grass farmer and thoroughly enjoyable ranter, said that when he is called in to consult about a farm, the first thing he does is go to the farm library.

I haven’t found a source for this quote, but I seriously hope it is true!

I love reading, being challenged and thinking about things.  Questioning and recognising my own assumptions is a lifelong occupation and one that I value highly!

So in the enjoyable activity of preparing for the Biodynamic World View course, reading is paramount, sorting out the accessible from the inaccessible, the inspiring from the everyday.  Because farmers often have difficulty finding time to read, I have to make sure that everything we give them is good stuff.

I loved this interview.  These are really only just a few of the good bits! Give me good conversation about food and farming any day, throw in a little philosophy, some practicality and plenty of questions – hardly anything could be better.

Challenges of Agriculture – Interviewing Patrick Holden

For our new course Biodynamic World View, I have been conducting a series of interviews about the challenges facing agriculture today.  Patrick Holden was up first!

I wanted to ask Patrick what he thought were the ecological challenges in agriculture, he wanted me to ask about the spiritual challenges, so we did both…

Here are just a few excerpts (all from the first 5 minutes of the conversation) there is more!  The whole interview will be available as part of the first week of the Biodynamic World View Course.)

In the context of agriculture, how can we undergo a transition from food productions systems which are based on old thinking, fossilised, both in terms of their thinking but also in terms of their use of fossil fuels and other non-renewable capital, polluting, destroying of public health and arguably failing to support the planetary evolution on some deep spiritual level which can only just be articulated, but which nevertheless most of us feel is important?
If it is a human task to act as intermediary between the cosmos and the mineralised body of the earth, then what is demanded of us, as human beings involved in agriculture, that can refine the biomass of which we are part and arguably stewards? (at least on a good day, and there haven’t been many good days recently!)
Now we see a planet which is in crisis – ecological crisis, spiritual crisis, resource crisis… and in all of these agriculture plays a prominent role.
I’m talking about a total transition, to food systems which operate within planetary boundaries.  So for me the question that arises is ‘what part do I have to play?’

As I said, these excerpts are just from the first five minutes.  This was a conversation that touched on world-wide issues, questions of thinking, understanding and action, how it is to be a steward of nature and what has to happen next.

The challenges are immense, but not insurmountable!  There is action to be taken, Patrick’s interview is only the beginning…